St. Clair grads denied work permits with inconsistent evaluation guidelines

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St. Clair grads denied work permits with inconsistent evaluation guidelines

Dozens of international business students at St. Clair College are caught up in red tape with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which threatens their ability to work in Canada.

They have been told they missed the deadline to apply for post-graduate work permits and now have no status in Canada.

One of the affected students said he hasn't been able to eat or sleep after receiving notice that he was denied last week.

"I'm broken and I'm very upset," said Dip Sarvaiya.

The rules state international students have 90 days to apply for the permit after graduation to work in Canada. The process is considered a stepping stone toward becoming a citizen. 

The International Business Management program at St. Clair is 12-months long, spanning three semesters, and it meets eligibility requirements for a work permit. About 30 of the students graduated earlier this year in May. The program consists of mostly international students and many of them were recruited from India by the college.

Where the problem begins is with a second program called Freight Forwarding Logistics, a four-month long program marketed by the college to take in conjunction with the business management program.

The college told students they would still qualify for the work permit even if they wait until after they're done the logistics program before applying.

And that's worked for the students for the past five years, according to registrar Michael Silvaggi.

However, IRCC started considering the two programs separate for some students' applications, and are now saying the students should have applied after they were done the business management program.

The second program isn't long enough to qualify the students for a work permit and by delaying application until after they've completed it, the students exceeded the allotted 90 days.

"We're working diligently with immigration. We've had conversation with the border [officials], but we're trying to understand why all of a sudden these students have been declined, where we've had lots of success in prior years," said Silvaggi.

Immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri is representing about two dozen of the students who were denied. 

While students like Sarvaiya received a refusal letter, some of his peers were granted permits. They took the same programs and submitted the paperwork in the same time, and Kadri said IRCC "has created a conflicting standard" with which they evaluate these applications.

He is calling on the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, to intervene and grant the permits.

"We need to look at this post grad work permit program. We need to evaluate the guidelines, make sure that they're clear. Make sure that they're administered equally, efficiently, but that is the next move," Kadri said.

"Right now we need to help the people that need help right away," he said.

Sarvaiya has spent about $30,000 on tuition. He feels like his dreams of leading a great, productive life in this country have now disappeared.

"We don't know what to do now. It's completely up to government and college to help. It's a big financial issue for us," said Sarvaiya.

"We wanted to be part of this great community, and all things is being taken from us."

CBC News has reached out to IRCC for a response but has not heard back before time of publication.